COVID-19 PANDEMIC FIGHT: NO NATIONAL STRATEGY AND A FIRM VINDICATION OF A “RUSSIAN ROULETTE” PREDICTION?

COVID-19 is still on the rampage; doesn’t appear ready to surrender anytime soon. All affected countries are doing all they can to contain the pandemic.

In Ghana, West Africa’s worst hit nation, it appears the success we claim we are chalking against the disease is more of talk, rather than anything expected through the established guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO outlined six steps that any country can take, regardless of its size or scenario, to fight the virus and to avoid deaths.

  1. Expand, train and deploy your public health force.
  2. Implement a system to find every suspected case.
  3. Ramp up testing capacity and availability.
  4. Identify and adapt key facilities you will use to treat and isolate patients.
  5. Develop a clear plan to quarantine contacts.
  6. Refocus the whole of government on suppression and containing COVID-19.

Like I said earlier, granted that the WHO has provided the above to guide afflicted countries to conquer the disease, Ghana from the look of things appears not to be “aggressive” and has not “gotten ahead of the disease” as Information Minister would want to have us believe.

Since the time of lifting the partial lockdown ( in just 11 days), Ghana’s case count has almost doubled; moving from 1,042 cases to 2,074 cases.

H.E. John Mahama in his Digital Conversation with Ghanaians had indicated that the Akufo Addo led Govt’s decision to lift the partial lockdown was likely to present a situation as deadly as a “Russian Roulette”, exactly which we have landed in as country.

Assessing Ghana’s strategy towards the COVID-19 fight, a Virologist at KCCR, Dr Michael Owusu has been blunt that the country and its leaders don’t appear to have a national strategy.

“I have seen the strategy of Nigeria. I have seen the strategy of USA but unfortunately I have not seen the strategy of Ghana when it comes to COVID-19”, he said in a health related radio interview on Joy fm.

And this position which some of us wholly share, has been corroborated by renowned Pathologist, Prof Agyemang Badu Akosah who did not only corroborate that position but made a dire revelation, that data including “test results on COVID-19 are somehow being managed to look suitable”.

I ask; what national strategic sense does it make for instance that a Government will lift a lockdown when the rate of spread – community spread or persons with unestablished or known travel history is 87% to the extent that our case count has rather scaring-ly doubled?

Instead of lifting it, shouldn’t it rather be the time that Government will make the restrictions more extreme to limit movement (disease spread) and embark on more contact tracing, testing and treatment?

Is it not intriguing that Health workers cannot get PPE to use to save human lives but Govt backed Ghana’s Electoral Commission has enough PPE provided it to use during a supposed new voters’ registration exercise? The latest we have gathered is that Govt had attempted to save its face from the disgrace by quickly donating some locally produced – cloth-made face masks to the health workers of Korle-Bu, an offer which was rejected.

Why give quality N95 face masks to EC for an unnecessary exercise and give inferior ones to those who needed it most? Government priorities.

Is it not again intriguing that at the time Government is saying it is embarking on an aggressive enhanced contact tracing, there are health workers across the country who had been exposed to COVID-19 patients and were informed their mucus samples would be taken for tests but has for about 2 weeks now not been contacted for same?

A typical case is at the Ho Teaching Hospital, an Accountant of the Hospital who tested positive for COVID-19 and has since been in isolation, came into contact with some of the workers in the Hospital during his visit to the wards and the decision was that the exposed workers needed to be tested. As we speak, no effort had been made to contact these persons for the test.

What seemed to have exacerbated the issue is that these workers were also not asked to self quarantine as they continue to report for duties.

That aside, there actually are some health workers across the country of which are 13 medical doctors and a sizable number of nurses etc who have contracted the disease and have been seeking medical care.

There are others who were also exposed to persons who tested positive and had their mucus samples taken for testing but have been waiting on end (past the 14 days gestation period) for the test result as they languish in quarantine.

Now, as to why the reluctance to act on the consistent appeals of health workers that Health Authorities and Government must provide temporary accommodation facilities near hospitals for workers so that in an event they (health workers) get afflicted by COVID-19, they would not end up endangering the lives of their families and community, action is yet to be taken on it.

Or the reluctance is because someone is unable to see how he or she can make a cut on that urgent need of the poor health worker?

Let me hesitate to add that Government had for no unjustifiable course withdrawn the laudable Aayalolo bus arrangement it coveted from Citi TV meant to convey health workers.

Are we really fighting to conquer the pandemic?

I have listened to Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah on Asempa fm’s “Eko Sii Sen” claim that request for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has gone down, justifying same with supposed number of calls related to PPE and received at the Government’s call centre.

My jaw dropped instantly when I heard Kojo Oppong Nkrumah say so because it is common knowledge that PPE had become the most sought after need of hospital facilities across the country, especially those in the specific areas recording COVID-19.

The media is awash with some of those reports, one of which is Korle Bu medical doctors are reported spending their personal resources to buy PPE for work. The situation is not different from Maamobi General Hospital and others.

Checks at Ho Trafalgar Hospital for instance, revealed that as a result of unavailability of PPE, relatives of patients that are Emergency and C/S cases have to buy face masks (meant for health workers use) from chemical shops to accompany the patients, otherwise attention wont be given.

Evident enough, at the time Kojo Oppong Nkrumah was making the claim on radio, a memo from Keta Government Hospital appealing to benevolent persons to assist with PPE was in circulation which some of us saw on social media.

Timely enough also, H.E. John Mahama was prompt when the matter got his attention, supplying the Hospital with PPE just as he did for all the Regional, Teaching hospitals among others across the country.

One other issue related to isolation of COVID-19 patients, in the Volta Region, a communication by the Volta Regional COVID-19 Team had gone to the effect that the remaining 10 COVID-19 patients would be moved from their various individual places of isolation to the Ho Teaching Hospital (Trafalgar) but that has since remain a usual rhetoric.

The saddest part, however, for some of us is that, Volta Region has a Medical Doctor as a Regional Minister and it is under his watch that we are witnessing the sheer recklessness and ineptitude.

I thought Volta Region having a Medical Doctor as a Regional Minister would serve as a model region for others in the containment of COVID-19 but that is not the case.

Are these the men – a first class team promised us??

Writer: Koku Mawuli Nanegbe (The writer is the News Editor for the Catalyst Newspaper)

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